Anticipatory Grief

One big part of my experience as a social worker who worked with patients in hospice care was provide emotional support to the families as they went through one of the toughest times in their lives. There are literally no words to describe the feeling of going into someone’s room who is surrounded by their family and knowing that they are mere hours or minutes away from death. I say all this to say that many times family and loved ones start to go through some or all of the stages of grief when the person is still alive. This is generally referred to as anticipatory grief. One thing that I’ve seen as a therapist is how people start to demonstrate some of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) when the relationship is about to die or appears to be on life support. However, one thing that has been interesting to me has been the people who are going through the stages of grief over a relationship that does not exist. This is what I mean. Let’s say someone is attracted to someone else but they have not taken the time or the initiative to show their interest to the one they find attractive. This person, having no idea that they are being admired from afar pursues other relationships to the horror of the one who likes them from a distance. The person admiring from a distance can go through the stages of grief because of the rejection that they feel and also at the many thoughts of having this individual and then losing them. But yet, the relationship never existed except in the mind of this individual. It’s funny how our minds can be creative and innovative but can also imprison us. Sometimes we have to get out of our own heads and stop inflicting the emotional wounds on ourselves because of distorted thoughts. Definitely easier said than done, but possible with self awareness and new thought habits.

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